How to Interview Like a Pro
Guest Post from author Jennifer Roland
Repeat after me: Interviews are not scary.
I see so many people who are terrified to conduct interviews in the writer’s forums I participate in. That is to be expected for your first few interviews. It can be scary to talk to people you don’t know and to work to guide the conversation in the direction you need it to go.
But the thing is, an interview is just a conversation with a purpose.
Are you afraid to talk to the grocery checker about the weather, the product you’re buying that you absolutely love, or even the person in front of you who just saved a ton of money with coupons? My guess is that you’re perfectly fine with those conversations. An interview doesn’t have to be any different.
Here are my tips to conduct a great interview.
You don’t want to ask your interview subject the same questions she’s answered in 20 different places. Find that answer and use it as a springboard for further conversation on the topic, if it’s something of interest to you.
Check out your interview subject’s bio and social media presence so you can avoid some of the boring “where are you from?” questions. Also look for some shared interests you can use to break the ice.
But Don’t Be Too Prepared
In journalism school, we were taught to create a list of questions to ask during all of our interviews.
I still find this to be a useful practice, but I typically have a list of topics to cover rather than specific questions. I’ve found over the years that I sound stilted when I read a question exactly as I’ve written it. I keep that list in plain sight so I can refer to it during the conversation and make sure I don’t forget anything.
No matter how awesome my pre-research and list of questions are, I am ready and willing to veer off topic if my interview subject says something interesting. So don’t spend all of your time thinking about what you’re going to say next! And some of my best quotations have come from these course corrections.
Also practice taking notes in a way that doesn’t interfere with your ability to listen. Ask family and friends to let you take notes while you’re chatting — or do it on phone calls where they can’t tell how weird you are.
Keep an Eye on the Clock
Your interviewee may use the length of the interview as a guide to how important they are to your story. If you’re just looking for a few quotations and some good background, try to keep the interview to 20 minutes. That shows respect for your subject’s time — and prevents you from having too much information to wade through.
Most of the interviews for Pacific Northwest Writers were 30-40 minutes. That translated into a chapter length of about 10 pages, which I think is a fair use of their time and enough room for them to share their words of wisdom.
Some of the interviews ran long and necessitated a fair amount of cutting so that each chapter was of similar length — and to leave out some of the more private parts of the conversation. These calls were all really fun, so it was easy to go over.
What’s your experience with interviews? Do you love them or hate them? Share your experiences in the comments below.
|Source:||WOW! Women on Writing|
She loves fiction and writes that under the name Jennifer C. Rodland. She hopes to put all of the lessons she learned writing this book into getting more of that published.
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